European hotspots should be put on the UK’s coronavirus green list as the subsequent increase in hospital admissions would be “minimal”, according to the boss of easyJet.
Chief executive Johan Lundgren urged the Government to put popular destinations such as Spain, Portugal and Greece in the lowest risk category when foreign holidays resume.
Overseas leisure travel is expected to be permitted for people in England from May 17 as part of the next easing of coronavirus restrictions.
A risk-based traffic light system will be implemented, with different quarantine and testing requirements for countries on green, amber and red lists.
People returning from green destinations will not need to self-isolate and will only be asked to take one post-arrival test.
EasyJet commissioned research by leading epidemiologists Dr Jeffrey Townsend and Dr Alison Galvan from the Yale School of Public Health in the US.
The analysis, based on data from April 12, found that opening UK borders to travellers from much of Europe would increase hospital admissions by less than 4%.
If Spain – the most popular overseas destination for UK holidaymakers – was on the green list, only an additional four people per week would require hospital treatment due to coronavirus, the study found.
The researchers also claimed the 10-day quarantine period for people returning from amber countries is longer than necessary.
The travel lists are expected to be published next week.
In a speech to a virtual meeting of the Aviation Club, Mr Lundgren said “it is safe to put much of Europe on the green list”, as “the impact of travel on hospitalisations is minimal”.
Eliminating coronavirus is “not viable for the UK”, he told the audience of aviation industry leaders.
“We need to learn how to operate with it.”
Mr Lundgren went on: “The success of the UK vaccine rollout has broken the link between cases and hospitalisation.
“It is the same success that allows for the domestic reopening.
“And as we get into May and June we expect the situation to improve because of the progress of the vaccination programmes.
“So, we have demonstrated through the scientific analysis it is safe for much of Europe to be categorised as green.”
Dr Townsend said: “Travel quarantines have been a cornerstone of efforts to prevent infectious disease prevention since the 14th century.
“We’ve determined that appropriate, shorter quarantines and judicious testing can facilitate travel, in cases where they are needed to prevent unsafe levels of transmission.”